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Sans govt regulation, Kashmir mountains maybe enticing more men to death

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Srinagar, Sep 14: Mountaineering is emerging as the new favourite sport in Kashmir Valley without the government keeping an eye on the often-untrained trekkers taking on the adventure in rising numbers.

The last Friday, a mishap occurred in which Adil Shah and Naveed Shah of Alpine Adventurers Group died after facing rock fall and subsequently fell into a crevice on Kolahoi glacier while descending.

 

This incident also left another trekker, Haziq Beigh injured.

He was later rescued and admitted to Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital.

Every year, scores of trekkers go for such expeditions, while there are no rules and regulations to check the credentials of the climbers.

To make the matters worse, the state is yet to have an Adventure Policy.

The Kashmir Monitor spoke to the members who conducted the rescue operation, trekkers, and officials from the Tourism Department about the safety measures to be taken before going any kind of expedition.

Irfan Ahmad, a resident of Aru Pahalgam, who participated in the rescue operation and has climbed the Kolahoi Glacier in 2015, said, “It is not a regular destination, but it is accessible to the mountaineers. The trekkers from the Alpine Group had not taken the conventional route, as it is difficult to climb. May be they were not well-versed with the terrain of the other route.”

He said that trekking and mountaineering are altogether different. The latter requires proper equipment and expertise, he said.

“The climbers should be well trained and equipped for such tours,” Irfan said.

Agents Association of Kashmir (ATOAK) President RoufTramboo, himself a trekker, said there was a nodal agency called ‘Indian Mountaineering Foundation’ to give permissions for mountain climbing.

“They take our credentials, experience, skills into consideration. They have classified the mountains according to their height. Mountains which are up to 6000 meters high don’t require any permission,” he said.

He said that Kolahoi is a technically sound mountain. However, he said there is a moraine section in the glacier in which the path needs to be crossed.

“One has to be sure-footed to cross it,” Tramboo said.

There are many crevasses in the Kolahoi glacier.

However, he said, “Most of them didn’t have any formal training. While climbing this glacier, there comes a patch where you have to negotiate the rocks and you need to be properly roped up, one rope carries around five people which depends on the leader’s decision.”

Tramboo said that the Tourism Department has a recreational wing where people going for the trek need to register themselves.

“The trekkers had not submitted any information over there. Nobody knows which area they chose, and the route they took. They must have negotiated the rocks despite the bad weather. There is no regulatory body, knowing that it is a growing segment of recreation and sport. It should be promoted more among the youngsters,” he said.

“In March 2015, we were a part of international expedition which was organised by Jammu and Kashmir Mountaineering and Hiking Club.15 and 16 members from Kashmir Valley participated,” he said.

However, former Director Tourism, Mehbood Shah, who himself is a trekker, said that trekkers don’t require any permission for less than 6000 meters and Kolahoi falls in that category.

“The person who was heading this expedition has already climbed 6000 feet. There was no shortage of expertise and equipment. He was at a wrong place at a wrong time. When you confront a rock fall, no amount of training and equipment can save you,” he said.

He said that there are two routes and have their own merits and demerits. “The northern one is full of crevasses. I think it was destined to happen,” he said.

Director Tourism Kashmir, Tasaduq Jeelani, said they had not issued any permission or authorization to anyone for climbing the glacier.

“They have not applied before the climb,” he said.

However, he said that Tourism Department has prepared an Adventure Policy, which is in public domain for the feedback. “Most of the states in India don’t have an adventure policy in place,” he said.

“Once we have Adventure Policy in place, trekkers can register themselves. Insurance policy is there, basic rescue equipment for the climb, medical kit for any injury, dress code for different temperatures have been incorporated in the policy. It is in the final stage and will be implemented soon,” Jeelani added.